Emergency Management

Train cleanup continues in UP
Posted By Hunter George on Feb 27th, 2011 at 7:19 PM

The Coast Guard, Department of Ecology, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company and contractors are continuing to respond to a train derailment south of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in University Place that occurred Saturday at approximately 8 p.m.

Fourteen rail cars derailed, four of which contain sodium hydroxide. Two separate fittings on one tank car leaked approximately 50 gallons of sodium hydroxide solution onto the shoreline. One leak has been plugged and the other leak is being contained.

At low tide, all 14 rail cars are out of the water.  At high tide, five rail cars are in approximately one foot of water.  The leaking sodium hydroxide solution did not come in contact with the tide.

Photos of the derailed train cars are available here.

Lt. Cmdr. Matt Denning, Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, and Ron Holcomb with the Department of Ecology reported that the threat to public safety and health from the chemical is negligible at this time. Pierce County has closed off trails and a pedestrian bridge near the area due to the on-site activity.

The Coast Guard has issued a broadcast notice to mariners alerting boaters to stay out of the area.  The Coast Guard Cutter Blue Shark is patrolling the area to ensure boaters keep a safe distance from the incident site.  A Coast Guard helicopter flew over the area at 8:40 a.m. and reported that there were no visible signs that the sodium hydroxide solution was leaking into the water.

Each of the four tank cars contains approximately 15,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide solution, which will be pumped out of the tank cars prior to the cars being removed from the shoreline.

Gus Melonas, a representative from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, said both train lines were expected to be open later Sunday.  The cause of the derailment remained under investigation.

For additional information contact Lt. Jon Lane at (206) 484-5087.


First responders secure scene of Feb. 26 train derailment near Chambers Bay
Posted By on Feb 27th, 2011 at 10:33 AM

At approximately 8 p.m. on Feb. 26, firefighters from West Pierce Fire & Rescue responded to reports of a train derailment. Firefighters arrived to find that two trains running in opposite directions on separate tracks sideswiped each other. 

 The trains were both carrying freight. Firefighters isolated the area and called in additional resources. The resources called were: the Pierce County Hazardous Incident Team comprising Hazardous Materials Experts from throughout Pierce County, The United States Coast Guard, the Washington State Department of Ecology, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the Anderson Island Fire Boat, the Guardian One Helicopter from the King County Sheriff’s Office, Pierce County Emergency Management, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, and the National Response Center, Environmental Services.

 Utilizing these resources it was discovered that a total of 13 cars were derailed – 12 cars from the northbound track and one from the south. Three tankers were found to be on their sides on the beach, and a fourth was on the tracks. Representatives from BNSF confirmed that one of the tankers was leaking sodium hydroxide. The spill was thought to be approximately 50 gallons. The Department of Ecology and the Coast Guard stated that this is an environmental concern as the material can harm the aquatic organisms that come in contact with it.  One of the overturned tankers was underneath several box cars and did not appear to be leaking.  

 The Coast Guard issued a safety zone near the derailment due to the volatility of sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide can create toxic gases when mixed with water and can cause burns to the respiratory tract, skin, eyes, and gastrointestinal tract, according to the Emergency Response Guide and Marine Safety Data Sheet.

 A broadcast notice to mariners was relayed to warn local boaters to keep clear of the area for their safety and the safety of the responders. Coast Guard personnel were on scene and working with the multiple agencies to evaluate the situation and determine next course of action.

 There were no reports of injuries. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.


 Hallie McCurdy, Assistant Fire Marshal, Lakewood Fire District 2

(253) 377-3163           


 Ron Holcomb, State Department of Ecology Hazardous Materials Specialist

(360) 951-1669


 Lt. JG Tasha Gentile, U.S. Coast Guard

(321) 704-3903

 Hunter George, Pierce County Communications